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More questions than terrorists






echf ecf JOHNNY DAYANG echoes

THE President has yet to sign the anti-terror bill (as of this writing) but already the legal luminaries, including the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), have raised opposition, citing several provisions that may have conflicted with the 1987 Constitution.

Beyond the knotty issues that surface whenever overly sensitive bills are enacted, what is palpable is the strong resistance some sectors identified with the Left and the militant have shown. This resistance comes from the academe, the press, and the religious.

Two of the constitutional issues IBP has raised are on the length of custody and the creation of an anti-terrorism council. The first concern repeals the 36-hour detention limit in the Charter and the establishment of the council amends the Human Security Act of 2007.

While the council is not imbued with any quasi-judicial power, it is given the clout to take into custody any suspected terrorist. Meaning, a suspect can be held in custody on mere suspicion for a maximum of 24 days!

What if he has been found to be a regular vagabond with no terroristic affiliation whatsoever? Well, the government can simply wash its hands and release him without compensation for his ordeal. Surely, in this case, the application of an obscure anti-terror bill does not make sense.

On the other hand, it is an indisputable facet of governance, as a matter of priority, to keep the archipelago safe from any extraneous or internal strife, especially attempts to overthrow the State. Everybody agrees that national security is inviolable but so is human rights. If the anti-terror bill has been passed with good intention, why was the provision imposing imprisonment and huge fine on violating law enforcers found in the Human Security Act removed?

Another contentious aspect is the way the bill was passed. Because it was solely the work of the Senate which some bright boys in the House majority adopted, the legislative initiative, at face value, becomes the product of only one chamber. This is the reason why some congressmen who principally authored the bill withdrew their support for the Senate version.

Sen. Vicente Sotto’s argument that the bill was under debate for the past three years is hogwash. If, indeed, this was so, why was it passed only when the President certified the bill as urgent? And why did the Senate, as a matter of courtesy, not allow the lower chamber to integrate the congressmen’s amendments of the Senate version?

We have always believed in interparliamentary courtesy as a sound practice, but by the way the Senate has been acting lately, it has presented itself as a Trojan horse.